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Georgia - History

The Georgians are an ancient people, whose long history has been marked by intensive interactions with other nations and cultures, such as Assyria, Urartu, Greece, Rome, Parthia, Arabia, Byzanthia, Mongolia, Iran, Turkey, Russia and the Western European countries. Through more than 30 centuries of such interactions, Georgians have managed to preserve their unique language, culture, and identity.

The Georgian state counts its history from the 12th century BC. Due to its productive land and strategic location astride the crossroads between Europe and Asia, Georgia has been always attracted the attention of traders as well as potential conquerors. Ancestors of Georgians practiced nimble diplomatic skills, seeking to maintain good relations with their neighbors, but sometimes bloodshed was unavoidable.

Some time in the 4th century BC Georgian alphabet was created. The oldest surviving text in the Georgian language is dated to the 5th century AD. In the 4th century AD, particularly in 337 in Kartli region, Christianity was accepted as the state religion.

Georgia's power and influence reached their peak during 11th-12th centuries. Mongolian invasions, which began in the 13th century, significantly weakened the Georgian state. Georgian Monarchs sought help from Western European countries and the Pope, but they were preoccupied with crusades and unable to assist.

With the rise of the Turk-Osman empire on Georgia's western borders, and the Turk's conquest of Constantinople in 1453, Georgia was geographically isolated from Western Europe and the Christian world as a whole. AS part of its effort to re-establish ties with other Christian nations, Georgia eventually established diplomatic relations with Russia. In 1801 Russia abolished the Kartl-Kakhetian kingdom (Russian protectorate since 1763) and formally incorporated it into the Russian empire. Not long thereafter, an independence movement started in Georgia. It was on 26 May, 1918 that Georgia gained its independence, and started to move towards rebuilding and development, but in 1921 it was annexed by Soviet Russia.

Several of the Soviet Union's most notorious leaders in the 1920s and 1930s were Georgian, such as Joseph Stalin, Sergo Orjonikidze, and Lavrenti Beria. In the postwar period, Georgia was perceived as one of the wealthiest and most privileged of Soviet republics, and many Russians treated the country's Black Sea coast as a kind of Soviet Riviera.

Even after the forced integration into the USSR, Georgians managed to preserve their national identity and never complied to subjugation. After the destruction of the USSR in 1991 Georgia again started to rebuild its statehood. The road of development was paved with bloody conflicts and civil wars, but the country shaped vividly its decision to set up an open and democratic society and ensure equality of all its citizens through the new constitution, free and fair elections, and the establishment of local democracy.

Beset by ethnic and civil strife from independence in 1991, Georgia began to stabilize in 1995. However, almost 300,000 internally displaced persons present an enormous strain on the country. Peace remains fragile in the separatist areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- overseen by Commonwealth of Independent States' (essentially Russian) peacekeepers, the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Considerable progress has been made in negotiations on the Ossetian-Georgian conflict. Negotiations are continuing on the stalemated Georgia-Abkhazia conflict under the aegis of the United Nations.

Like other former Soviet Republics, Georgias newly declared independence was followed by ethnic and civil strife. Secessionists took control of parts of South Ossetia and most of Abkhazia prior to cease-fire agreements brokered in 1992 and 1994, respectively. Georgia began to stabilize in 1995. However, the separatist conflicts in Georgia's regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain unresolved. Periodic flare-ups in tension and violence culminated in a 5-day war in August 2008 between Georgia and Russia.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy negotiated a cease-fire between Presidents Mikheil Saakashvili and Dmitriy Medvedev on August 12, 2008, which remains in effect, although Russia has not fulfilled some of its cease-fire commitments, including withdrawal of its forces to pre-war positions. As part of the Saakashvili-Medvedev cease-fire agreement, the European Union established the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM), which patrols the undisputed Georgian side of the administrative boundary lines with Abkhazia and South Ossetia but does not have access into those regions of Georgia. The cease-fire also called for international peace talks on the situation, which have taken place regularly in Geneva since October 2008 among the EU, United Nations (UN), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Georgia, Russia, and the United States, with the participation of de facto representatives from Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In August 2008, Russia recognized the independence of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. As of August 2011, only three other countries had recognized the independence of the two territories. All other countries, including the United States, have confirmed their continuing support for Georgias political sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Georgian Government stakes much of its future on the revival of the ancient Silk Road as the Eurasian energy transportation corridor, using Georgia's geography as a bridge for transit of goods between Europe and Asia. Georgians are renowned for their hospitality and artistry in dance, theater, music, and design.

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Page last modified: 12-08-2013 17:58:05 ZULU